France’s Galeries Lafayette turns to art and gourmet food to lure shoppers

18 May

France’s chic department store Galeries Lafayette is betting on an art foundation and an Italian gourmet food hall in Paris to help differentiate its brand from bricks-and-mortar rivals and e-commerce competitors.

food

The French capital is attracting a wave of investment into luxury stores and premium food halls as retailers seek to capitalize on a rebound in a tourism industry that was badly hurt by a wave of militant attacks in 2015 and 2016.

The foundation, Lafayette Anticipations, opened on March 10 and Galeries Lafayette plans to open its first Italian food emporium, Eataly, next February near the foundation and its BHV Marais lifestyle department store in the Marais district.

“We are building an ecosystem around the BHV store,” said Nicolas Houze, head of the family owned Galeries Lafayette group, which has revenue of 3.8 billion euros ($4.67 billion) and owns BHV Marais.

Galeries Lafayette is part of a club of French high-end retailers turning to gastronomy to lure more people through their doors. It already has a food court at its flagship Boulevard Haussmann store, where foreigners account for half of its clientele.

Le Printemps in January opened a food hall on the 7th and 8th floors of its Haussmann building dedicated to men’s fashion and luxury group LVMH opened a second upmarket La Grande Epicerie store in Paris’s posh 16th district last year.

“With Eataly and the foundation we are creating a shopping destination. We are building an offer much larger than that of BHV,” said Guillaume Pats, head of buying for BHV Marais.

Galeries Lafayette has the exclusive franchise in France for Eataly, the premium chain renowned for selling Italian truffles, wines and pastas around the world.

The three-storey food hall, now under construction, will spread over 3,500 square meters and include seven restaurants serving 2,500 meals a day, a courtyard fruit and vegetable market, cafes and a cellar with more than 800 Italian wines.

Pats said it would draw hip locals and tourists for whom “Italian food is a safe haven abroad”.

The art foundation, which has moving floors and includes an exhibition tower made of glass, metal and concrete, is located in a 19th-century industrial building and hosts art exhibits and performances. It has a working budget of 21 million euros for the next five years and cost 12 million euros to remodel.

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General Mills Sounds Inflation Alarm for Food Industry

18 Apr

Packaged-food companies already are struggling to respond to a shift in consumer preferences toward healthier, simpler foods. Now they also have to contend with higher input prices.

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General Mills GIS -8.85% shares fell nearly 9% Wednesday after the company lowered operating-profit guidance for its full fiscal year ending in May. The maker of Cheerios cereal, Yoplait yogurt and Progresso soups now forecasts adjusted earnings-per-share growth of zero to 1% for the period, down from its earlier guidance of 3% to 4% growth.

The company cited higher commodity prices—including grains, nuts and dairy—as well as rising logistics and freight costs. On a conference call, management was contrite for not catching the trend of accelerating inflation earlier, and it outlined plans to respond by cutting costs, reconfiguring logistics networks and raising some prices.

But analysts on the call voiced skepticism that General Mills has room to pass higher costs on to consumers in the current tough environment. Among other factors, discount grocery chains are taking market share and pressuring suppliers to keep prices low. Shoppers also are increasingly willing and able to compare prices online. During a previous bout of commodity price inflation a decade ago, companies like General Mills raised prices stealthily by shrinking package sizes, but this approach has inherent limits.

While sounding pessimistic on costs, General Mills talked up its sales performance. Having shrunk for several quarters, organic net sales growth turned modestly positive over the past two quarters. This was aided by new products like Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios. But this success shouldn’t be exaggerated. The company’s guidance for the full fiscal year is still for flat organic net sales.

The acquisition of natural pet-food maker Blue Buffalo Pet Products will help flatter overall sales growth in future quarters. It won’t do much to aid cost efficiency, though, since pet food is a new product segment with few expense synergies.

Shares of rival packaged-food companies fell along with General Mills Wednesday, with Campbell Soup down by 2.2% and Kellogg falling 4%. For investors, weak sales and rising costs make for an unappetizing mix.

The best and worst cities for running a food truck

22 Mar

Want to start a food truck business? Head to Portland, Oregon. Or try Denver or Orlando.

Portland is the “most friendly” city in the country for food trucks, according to a new study of industry regulations released Wednesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, followed by Denver and Orlando.

Florida, Miami, Wynwood Life Street Festival, Belgian Waffle Food Truck

Philadelphia and Indianapolis rounded out the Chamber’s list of the five U.S. cities with the best business climate for food trucks, a booming industry that has quadrupled in size in the last three years alone. Food trucks generated an estimated $2.7 billion in revenue in 2017, up from $650 million in 2014, the study found.

“Food trucks continue to be vehicles for entrepreneurial opportunity and economic growth,” the study noted. “Government regulators, though, have been slow to adapt their rules to this new breed of entrepreneur.”

To drive that point home, the study also listed the five “most challenging” cities for food trucks: Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Seattle.

Obtaining a food truck permit in Washington requires “23 separate trips to local agencies,” the study found, compared to eight similar visits in Denver. Running a food truck in Boston costs up to $38,000 in annual regulatory fees; in Portland, the cost is just $5,000.

Food trucks face other challenges as well. In Minneapolis, for example, food trucks must park at least 100 feet away from a restaurant, 300 feet away from a commercial building, and 500 feet away from a “sports event,” according to the study, restrictions that make it harder for vendors to set up in prime areas with high foot traffic.

In some neighborhoods in Los Angeles, food trucks must move locations every hour. Some cities make it hard to obtain a food truck permit at all; the waiting list for a permit in New York is 15 years, the study found.

“I know people with food vending businesses in New York City and they’re on the waiting list for a permit for 20 years,” said David Schiaratua, who runs Frenchy’s Food Truck in Brooklyn, New York. Schiaratua said fighting parking tickets and other violations is a constant part of his job. “It’s not an easy business,” he said.

“In many major cities regulations for food trucks can be confusing, duplicative, and in some cases nonsensical,” Carolyn Cawley, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, said in a statement.

The foundation, an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said its 12-month study was the “most comprehensive ever conducted” of food truck regulations.

The research firm ndp analytics and Argive, a nonprofit that advocates for fewer regulations, contributed work to the study as well. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation said that the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group, and the National Food Truck Association, the industry’s top lobbying group, also assisted with the report.

The industry’s growth in recent years has caused tension with traditional restaurants, especially in cities like Denver with favorable regulations for food trucks.

“Some of our brick and mortar stores get a little concerned when some of the food trucks” park too close to restaurants, said Carolyn Livingston, the communications director for the Colorado Restaurant Association.

But Livingston said the explosion of food trucks was good for the broader restaurant industry.

“Any opportunity to raise the level of awareness about going out to eat is good for our entire industry.”

The flu-fighters martini

22 Feb

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This alcohol-free bug-buster is the perfect tipple for cold evenings, and a great one to get you through the last weekend of dry January.

Serves 1

80ml coconut water (preferably raw)
50ml fresh orange juice
15ml fresh lemon juice
15ml fresh lime juice
20ml elderflower cordial (organic, for preference)
20ml pure aloe vera juice
1 thumbnail-sized piece root ginger, peeled, plus 1 slice extra to garnish
1cm-wide slice large red chilli

Put everything in a blender, blitz smooth, then pass through a sieve (it’s fine unsieved, but the drink will then be spicier because of all the little chilli flecks through it).

Put a handful of ice in a shaker, add the blitzed mix and shake hard. Pour into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a slice of fresh ginger.

Recipe for a potato and porcini bake

18 Jan

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Having spent three days ill in bed, putting three potatoes into the oven felt like quite an achievement. As did the scent that filled the flat with a kind of “husky wellbeing”, even though I felt far from it. You have to marvel at the transformation of baked potatoes, and with so little effort: from cool hardness to edible, a chewy jacket and soft insides.

Every time baked potatoes are cut open with a puff of steam, a discussion takes place in our house: that of olive oil versus butter, as if we were defending our own garden. My partner Vincenzo is for olive oil, the deep-green elixir that we buy from a Sicilian friend called Pina in tin cans the size of a toddler, our biggest expense and kitchen fuel. I am not saying he is wrong. I am right, though, in believing that, when it comes to a baked potato, a slice of butter mashed into the already buttery flesh is best. Salt and pepper on top. I can measure my life in baked potatoes and still eat them in exactly the way I did as a child, the ritualistic mashing and scooping motion, the extra butter slid into the empty skin, the final pinch to close it, like a taco.

Recovering appetites are cautious and specific, and the following day it is potatoes again: patate al latte e burro, a northern-Italian dish in which three dependable ingredients work some magic together in a sort of stove-top dauphinoise. There is something tender about the whole process here: the purity of colour, the nurturing associations, the way the milk is assimilated by the other ingredients like a kid gulping a glassful (although I was never that kid). Milk rounds the edges of whatever it is cooking, be that rice, pasta, fish or potatoes, leaving just enough creamy sauce to feel like a luxury. Always on the lookout for similarities, I appreciate the way both English and Italian recipes pair nutmeg with such dishes, its simultaneously spiced and fresh flavour cutting through the lactic sensibleness like a naughty joke. The porcini are my addition.

The recipe: soak 20g dried porcini in 150ml warm water for 20 minutes, then drain, saving the liquid. Peel 800g potatoes – ideally more waxy than floury, not too large and evenly sized – then slice into 5mm-thick rounds. Peel and cut two sweet white onions or a bunch of spring onions. In a deep frying pan over a medium flame, warm three tablespoons of olive oil, add the onion and a tiny pinch of salt, stir and cook for a few minutes. Cover the onion with a layer of potatoes, then the porcini, then another layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper and nutmeg, then cover with whole milk and some of the porcini soaking liquid and bring to a steady simmer for 15 minutes. Dot with 40g butter in nuggets, then lower the heat and cook until the potatoes are tender and bathed in a creamy sauce; keep an eye because, towards the end, that sauce evaporates with disconcerting speed.

Scatter with chopped parsley, and not just for colour: its bright, grassy flavour is welcome, too. Let the pan sit for a few minutes before serving with a crisp salad or smoked fish, grilled bacon or a fried egg, or both: a combination that proves – to steal a line from food writer Niki Segnit – you don’t need to be an oligarch to eat like a king.

Recipe for scones with green kiwi fruit jam

20 Dec

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The humble kiwi fruit occupies an unfairly neglected position in the minds of most home cooks. Before a 20th-century rebranding by savvy New Zealand farmers, it was known as the Chinese gooseberry, but beyond the tartness of flavour and the acid-green flesh, the comparison to gooseberries might seem a bit far-fetched. Once cooked down into a jam, however, the taste is uncannily familiar. Perfect for a batch of scones fresh from the oven.

This is one of the easiest jams I’ve ever made. I’d usually rely on my trusty kitchen thermometer to reassure me that it has reached the correct temperature to set properly, but that’s currently out of action, so I had to rely on more traditional methods instead. The combination of fruits are so full of pectin (responsible for the jelly-ish consistency of jam) that it’s virtually impossible to undercook. Your efforts will be rewarded with a deliciously tart jam, speckled attractively with little black seeds.

Afternoon scones with green jam
For the green jam
Prep 10 min
Cook 10 min
Makes 1 jar

6 kiwis
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and grated
Juice of 2 limes
250g caster or granulated sugar

For the scones
Prep 10 min
Cook 12 min
Makes 10 scones

200g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
40g caster sugar
60g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
100g natural yoghurt
50g dried currants
1 egg, to glaze (optional)

Peel the kiwis, trim the ends, then quarter lengthways. Remove the white inner flesh along the spine of each quarter and put the fruit in a saucepan.

Add the grated apple, lime juice and sugar, and cook on a medium heat, giving it a brief stir every now and then, so the sugar is evenly distributed. Leave to bubble away for a couple of minutes, then use a potato masher to break up the fruit.

Cook the jam for another five minutes or so. Knowing when it’s done is more a question of consistency than exact timings: once properly cooked, it should have lost most of its water and traded its initial vivid green for a more muted tone. If it has started to brown slightly, it’s just starting to pass the perfect set point, so take off the heat immediately and pour into a sterilised jar. (Or use the cold plate test: spoon a little of the mix on to to to a plate – it should cool rapidly, and allow you to assess the texture; you’re aiming for something thickened and spreadable.)

For the scones, preheat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Sieve the flour, salt, bicarb and sugar into a bowl, then add the butter and rub in until there are no big lumps left.

Spoon in the yoghurt. Cut it through the mix with a blunt dinner knife: the aim is to disperse it evenly without doing any heavy-handed overmixing of the dough (to avoid lumpy, tough scones). Scatter in the currants, then give the mix a very brief knead to form it into a dough.

Lightly flour a worktop and a rolling pin. Roll out the dough into a 2.5cm-thick disc. Use a 5cm round cookie cutter to cCut out the scones and lay these on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Gather the offcuts, roll out and cut again until all the dough has been used up.

Lightly brush the tops of the scones with beaten egg (if using), then bake for 12 minutes, until the tops are a rich, nutty brown.

Swede recipes

18 Nov

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Swede: humble, hearty and, to lots of people, a bit boring. For many years, my sole experience was neeps on Burns Night, or as part of a triumvirate of mashes, school dinner-style. But these two-tone beauties, vibrant purple and off-white, so often reached over for more easygoing parsnips or sweet potatoes, are worth your attention in their own right. They roast as well as they mash and pair brilliantly with spice, especially those with a smoky undertone – smoked paprika, chipotle, cumin, black pepper – which stand up to its sweet backnotes. Cut into batons and roasted, it makes a great alternative to chips, too. Here are two recipes that I cook on repeat.

A smoky swede carbonara
This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an authentic carbonara, but I use the word to give you an idea of what it will look like: crisp-edged morsels of smoky swede offset the instant silky sauce of eggs and parmesan coating the pasta. Follow the method carefully to make sure you don’t scramble the eggs. I use smoked salt here – it’s easy to find in supermarkets, but use regular sea salt if you prefer.

Prep 5 min
Cook 12 min
Serves 4

Olive oil
300g swede, peeled and cut into 1cm x 3cm batons
Smoked salt or flaky salt
3 eggs
3 tbsp grated parmesan (I use a vegetarian one)
Black pepper
400g spaghetti

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add the swede, season well with the smoked salt and add a couple of tablespoons of water: leave the swede to simmer until the water is all gone, then continue to cook until it is golden brown and crisp-edged all over but soft in the middle. Turn the heat right down and keep warm.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, add a good grinding (about one teaspoon) of black pepper and the parmesan, and mix well.

Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions. Once the pasta is perfectly al dente, use tongs to lift it out of the water and straight into the frying pan with the swede, along with a little of the cooking water – this will cool the pan a little, stop the eggs from scrambling and help the sauce emulsify.

Toss the pasta and the swede together and, once the pan has cooled enough that you don’t hear any sizzling, add the egg mixture. Toss again until all the pasta is coated in sauce – if you need to, add a little more of the cooking water. The eggs and parmesan should come together to coat the pasta in a creamy, silky sauce. Serve immediately with more parmesan and black pepper.

Maple and black pepper roasted swede
I find myself making this again and again. This is very simple, but the flavours work brilliantly. To turn it into a meal, serve on cooked puy lentils alongside wilted greens. Be sure to peel your swede until the green layer under the skin is gone.

5161
Prep 5 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 4

1kg swede, (about 2 swedes), peeled and cut into 2cm thick wedges
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
A few sprigs of rosemary, thyme or sage, leaves picked and roughly chopped
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put the swede wedges on to a baking tray and drizzle over some olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and add the chilli and herbs. Toss to coat everything, then put into the hot oven to roast for 35-40 minutes until the edges are golden.

When they look good, take them out of the oven and tumble into a bowl, douse with the vinegar and stir. Leave for a couple of minutes to let the vinegar absorb, then add the maple syrup and mix again, and check for seasoning.